An audience of college students provided the questions as Bexhill College hosted a General Election hustings on Friday 26th May for the Bexhill and Battle constituency.
The debate was attended by four of the five candidates; Huw Merriman (Conservatives), Christine Bayliss (Labour), Joel Kemp (Liberal Democrats) and Jonathan Kent (Green Party) but UKIP candidate Geoffrey Bastin was unable to attend due to an illness.
Questions were not prearranged and each participant answered tough questions as the students focused on education funding, poverty, national debt, internationalism (the only question on Brexit), security, transport and community cohesion.
Leon Freeman is currently preparing for his forthcoming A Level exam in Politics. He said:
“The hustings were very insightful despite the argumentative nature of the panel. It was good to hear their different and stimulating views.”
There were points of contention and questions that frequently divided opinion on the panel. Funding for education is an issue that students wanted to raise and one of the questions asked whether pupils and schools would be vulnerable under whichever party wins.
Mrs Bayliss referenced a report released this year and claimed that not a single school in the constituency would avoid funding cuts by 2022 under current plans. She said Labour would fight the cuts. Mr Merriman quoted the Conservative manifesto which pledges 10% of the budget being spent on education with record funding and an extra £4billion added over the next Parliament. The Liberal Democrats would go further and put an extra £7billion into education and invest heavily in apprenticeships, said Mr Kemp.
Mr Kent said the Green Party sees education as an investment instead of a cost as the students will become the future working population. As an Oxford graduate he acknowledged his own success but was critical of grammar schools saying they are only great if you’re one of the top third. He said the alternative for those not getting into grammar schools in Kent for example, are some of the most struggling schools in the country.
Luke Flanagan, Teacher of Politics, commented:
“The hustings were a great opportunity for the students to hear from four of the party candidates standing in Bexhill and Battle. The event showed that young people are really engaged in politics; it produced a heated debate about current policy issues and the record of the Conservative government.”
This was the latest political event hosted by Bexhill College attended by several students and not just those studying A Level Government and Politics. Over the last year there’s been a Q&A hosted by the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, as well as lively debates on the US Presidency and EU Referendum with local politicians.